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Manohar Parrikar said that he ‘could release evidence’ relating to the incident. Photo: AP
Manohar Parrikar said that he ‘could release evidence’ relating to the incident. Photo: AP

Coast guard claim: Did India government jump the gun on Pakistani boat?

Coast guard officer's claim at odds with govt's; defence minister says remarks being probed

New Delhi: India’s defence minister said on Wednesday he will investigate a senior coast guard officer’s comment that Indian coast guards had destroyed a Pakistani “terror boat" on the night of 31 December 2014, contradicting the ministry’s position that the men on board had blown up their own boat.

The government has insisted the suspected terrorists scuttled their boat when the coast guard closed in on them on New Year’s Eve.

The Indian Express newspaper reported Wednesday that coast guard officer B.K. Loshali gave a speech in which he said he had given the order to blow up the boat.

In his remarks on Tuesday in Gandhinagar, the capital of India’s western state of Gujarat, Loshali said that he told his men: “Blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani."

The officer’s remarks caused an uproar since they appeared to contradict a statement by the Indian government after the coast guard had confronted the Pakistani fishing boat near the Gujarat port city of Porbandar. The ministry said the boat was stocked with explosives and the men on board blew it up as the coast guard approached them.

Loshali said on Wednesday that he had been misquoted, but the newspaper released a recording of the speech which included the comments.

Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said the ministry stood by its statement of early January that the boat had been destroyed by the men on board.

Parikkar said he would discipline the officer if an inquiry proved he had made the remarks.

India has been more aggressively monitoring its sea borders since Pakistani gunmen in 2008 attacked the city of Mumbai, killing 166 people. The gunmen had slipped into the city by boat from the Arabian Sea.

The controversy is likely to cast its shadow over the fraught relations between India and Pakistan.

The talks went into a deep freeze after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In August, India called off preparatory talks aimed at resuming the peace dialogue after prime minister Narendra Modi’s government took office in May.

Meanwhile, Pakistan defence minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said the claim by the Coast Guard official contradicted Indian government’s statement. “It has one again been proved that India has violated the international rules and disregarded the humanitarian considerations," he said.

“It (India) not only imposed baseless and false allegations on Pakistan like in the case of Samjhauta Express, but was involved in treacherously killing four innocent lives on board. India has once again proved to be heinous in its face, designs and urge for peace," Asif alleged. He reiterated that Pakistan’s desire for peace and coexistence in the region must not be seen as its weakness.

PTI contributed to this story.

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